Noctua NH-U14S Review
Testing and Performance
Intel i7 3960X Stock@ 1.1v (undervolted) 4.0GHz @ 1.25v 4.4GHz @ 1.35v 4.6GHz @ 1.45v Gigabyte X79 UD3 Corsair Vengeance LP Memory Corsair HX850 V2 Corsair Force GT 60GB Coolermaster Storm Trooper.
Continuity is very important in testing, and for this reason we keep as many of the potential variables as locked down as possible. We will be using OCCT in Linpack X64, AVX compatible with all logical cores tested and 90% free memory utilised. The test is set up to run automatically with just a few clicks to set it going. A 10 minute idle followed by 30 minutes of testing and a 5 minute cool down is the order of the day and brings the total test time per clock speed to 45 minutes. So as to remove subjectivity in determining whether a CPU has failed, OCCT is set to stop the test and register a fail should the max temp exceed 80 degrees. In testing we noted that if even just one of the cores exceeds 82 degrees OCCT halts the test and a fail is recorded.
All tests are conducted with the pump at the full 12 volts direct from the PSU. We have also tested the fans at the full 12 Volts and at lower speeds enabled when fed with just 7 Volts. At 45 minutes per test and 8 tests per kit that makes for a total of 6 hours per kit and a grand total of 24 hours total testing. Not content with that we also decided to test all of the systems at their highest overclock using a set of Nuctua fans. Add in assembly/disassembly and leak testing and you can see what a mammoth operation this is.
As usual we'll be testing our coolers at varying levels of overclock and increasing levels of voltage. this in turn of course means increasing levels of heat which the coolers need to dissipate. To begin with we start with the undervolted stock speed. Why undervolted? well if you have things set on "Auto", you may well be using more volts than are actually required to run at the chosen frequency, for example our 3960s will run quite happily at just 1.1volts, solid as a rock, 24/7, and as such we use this as our starting point.
It's no surprise the Noctua come through this test in both single and dual fan set up. With only a degree or two between the two there's an indication that it's the ability of the pipes to transfer the heat rather than the airflow over the fins that is determining the temps here. Looking at just the air coolers we can see that the temps are also on a par with all but the mighty D14
Turning now to the 4GHz test we up the voltage to 1.25 volts, this is what is deemed normally as stock volts. Something we are always harping on about on the forums is AUTO does not mean stock volts, and normally if you overclocking with "auto" volts the motherboard will be upping the volts much more than needed if you were to do it manually. By whichever means it happens, upping the volts (especially from our 1.1v undervolt) does have a big impact on temps, with an average increase of 10-15 degrees seen in the results.
The 4GHz test sees the difference in temps between the single and dual fan set ups start to widen. the Noctua posts temps slightly below the smaller Matterhorn Pure and Megahalem Black, but in dual fan trim is only a degree of the Massive Alpenfohn
Upping the volts still further we achieve a stable 4.4GHz overclock at 1.35 Volts. It's here we start to separate the wheat from the chaff, with lesser coolers not able to disperse the increased heat effectively. Again we see a jump of 10 degrees or so from the figures at 4GHz. Both the H100 and the well-respected D14 are creeping into the 70s here, indicating that only the cream of the crop will excel at this level.
Regretably with only just the supplied fan the Noctua was not able to complete this test. With 2 fans however it was a different story. A Delta T of 54.1 degrees sees it holding temps only a degree or so off the twin stacked twin fanned K2, which it has to be said has quite significant RAM encroachment and fitting issues. Neither of them however come close to the all conquering D14!
Sadly the NH-U14S wasn't able to keep it's cool at 4.6GHz, which to be honest wasn't entirely unexpected. Don't treat this as a failing though as even the omnipotent D14 has fallen off the charts. Our test demonstrate again and again that only the very strongest will be able to dissipate the heat generated at this level of overclock and overvolt.